Scottish winters can be harsh on the great outdoors, but effective choice of plants and materials can go a long way to creating an enjoyable habitat all year round.
Gardens always look their best in summer and their worst in winter. That’s a fairly inarguable fact, although many people fail to effectively prepare their outdoor spaces for the dark months ahead. Fire pits and pansies are fair-weather friends, whose subsequent absence can accentuate the sense of gardens becoming abandoned spaces with an unwelcoming ambience.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some simple ways to ensure outdoor space looks pretty all year-round, while simultaneously maximising practicality levels:
- Install lighting. It can be dark for sixteen hours a day in Scotland, effectively hiding outdoor spaces. Strategically-placed mains-powered lamps provide vital illumination for lawns and paths, whereas solar lamps are ineffective on overcast wintry days
- Choose pathways with care. Flagstones and timber decking can be slippery in icy conditions, whereas gravel or pebble paths will provide far better traction. If regular outdoor access is required all year round, choose surfaces that are unlikely to ice over
- Avoid deciduous trees. When trees shed their leaves, they look stark and bare. The leaf mulch that forms around their base is unsightly, while loose leaves can be a slip hazard. By contrast, evergreen trees will add a welcome splash of year-round colour
- Consider fake plants. In a similar vein, artificial flowers will look bright and refreshing compared to withered stalks and bare soil. Used sparingly, fake ivy and plastic flowers can transcend their tacky origins to look genuinely pleasant in winter
- If you choose seasonal plants, display them in planters. Planters are easier to empty out than flowerbeds, they can be hidden from view when their contents have been disposed of, and they don’t leave exposed banks of soil on show for half the year
- Investigate winter-fruiting plants. Holly is the best-known winter-fruiting plant, while its cold-weather cousins include barberry and firethorn. Even a modest splash of colour will cheer up an otherwise moribund outdoor space in December and January
- Consider bird feeders. This is a contentious issue; some people object to encouraging birds, yet others actively welcome them. Robins or blue jays can be captivating on grey days, and birds rely heavily on seed dispensers and fat balls when prey is scarce
- Prepare for next season in advance. It’s easier to identify areas for improvement when a garden is stripped back to its winter essentials. Also, undertaking landscaping work now means the work will be completed in time to enjoy the first balmy spring days.